WAILUKU — The Waiakea Warriors saw their BIIF title hopes sink last week with a loss to Hilo.
They responded on Saturday with a 9-0 win over Leilehua in a play-in game for a state-tournament berth. On Wednesday, they showed again that the past is just the past, storming past Saint Louis 9-4 at Iron Maehara Stadium. The unseeded entries in the Wally Yonamine Foundation/HHSAA Baseball State Championships came into the game as Top 10 teams. Saint Louis (21-10) is at No. 5 after finishing third in the ILH. BIIF runner-up Waiakea is now 20-4.
“We’ve been telling the boys that we need five wins to get where we want,” Warriors coach Eric Kurosawa said. “Saint Louis is a very good team. A very aggressive team. Well coached.”
Kalai Rosario left his mark early with a first-inning single and run, and a two-run blast in the second.
“We came out, played our ball. We knew we could get the win,” said Rosario, a junior. “It was pretty good to get that rally going, get on the board first.”
Rosario made it look easy, launching his homer in a park known for containing power hitters.
“I was trying to get my pitch to drive and I hit it pretty good. It was a hanging change-up. I knew they were probably going to come off-speed since I got a hit in my first at-bat,” he said of his fourth HR this spring.
Waiakea’s playoff loss to Hilo is history.
“Nothing changed. We just played our same game and played Waiakea baseball, and came out on top,” Rosario said. “Maybe it benefited us more. We knew we maybe we had to step it up a bit. We came more together as a team.
The Warriors saw Saint Louis commit four errors. Waiakea had just one.
“That’s what happened when we played against Hilo. We made a lot of errors. That’s why we became the runner-up instead of the champion,” Kurosawa said. “The only thing is now we had an extra game. It’s time for our guys to step up.”
Waiakea, Saint Louis, Baldwin. That’s quite the treacherous sub-bracket.
“It’s a great bracket. We told the kids, the only way to be the champs is to beat the champs. That’s our road,” Kurosawa said. “Baldwin hits well, fields well and pitches well. That’s why they’re the defending champs.”
Rosario and Stone Miyao, like their teammates, expected to play well. Rosario threw out a baserunner from center field with a cannonball shot in the second inning. Miyao, the shortstop, was steady and hit 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored.
“We know we’re one of the top teams. It doesn’t really matter what the rankings are,” Rosario said.
The year-round training and preparation are bearing fruit now.
“We don’t want to lose. We’re playing our best now,” Miyao said. “We’re excited to play (Baldwin) one more time. We’re ready now. Everyone knows what’s on the line. We’ve just got to play defense.”